Thursday, August 17, 2006

Saint Bernard

Bernard was born in France and had six brothers and sisters. They were very well educated. He was only 17 years old when his mother died and his heart was broken.

His lively sister Humbeline did not let him remain sad and she did whatever she could to cheer him up. Soon Bernard became a very popular man. He was handsome and intelligent, full of fun and good humor and people enjoyed being with him.

Bernard surprised all his friends by telling them he was going to join the very strict Cistercian order and become a Priest. They did all they could to make him give up the idea. But in the end, Bernard convinced his brothers, an uncle and twenty-six friends to join him.

As Bernard and his brothers left their home, they said to their little brother Nivard, who was playing with other children: "Good-bye, little Nivard. You will now have all the lands and property for yourself." But the boy answered: "What! How can all of you go to heaven and leave me here on earth? Do you call that fair?"

When Nivard was older he too joined his brothers in the monastery. Bernard became a very good monk. After three years, he was sent to start a new Cistercian monastery and to be its abbot, like a parish priest.

The new monastery was in the Valley of Light which in French is called "Clairvaux" and Bernard was the abbot there for the rest of his life. Although he would have liked to stay working and praying in his monastery, he was called out sometimes for special work. He preached, made peace between rulers, and went to advise the Pope.

He also wrote beautiful spiritual books. He became very famous and people everywhere had great respect for him. He did not want fame. More than anything else Bernard wanted to be a monk and be close to God.

Saint Bernard had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. It is said that when he passed her statue, he often greeted her with a "Hail Mary." One day, the Blessed Mother returned his greeting: "Hail, Bernard!" Our Lady showed how much his love and devotion pleased her.

When Saint Bernard died in 1153, the people were very sad because they would miss his wonderful presence in their life.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Saint Peter of Alcantara

Peter was born of noble parents at Alcantara in Spain. He entered the Order of Friars Minor when he was sixteen. Peter showed himself a model of all virtues, especially poverty and chastity, and brought numberless men from vice to repentance by preaching the word of God.

He was very eager to restore the original observance of St. Francis of Assisi. Peter built a very small and very poor monastery near Pedroso. The way of life there was very strict, and from the beginning it spread in a remarkable way.

Peter helped St. Teresa of Avila in promoting the Carmelite reform, having approved the spirit in which she had begun it. Teresa often referred to him as a saint even while he was still living. From her writings we learn that he was famous for the grace of contemplation and miracles, and was blessed with the gift of Prophecy and of the discernment of spirits.

He died at sixty-three, and Saint Teresa saw him in a vision, shining with wonderful glory.